One of the many great things about the collector car hobby is that there’s not only something for every taste, there’s something for nearly every budget. Owning a classic isn’t as cheap as stamp collecting or taking up yoga, of course, but anyone can buy a collector car for less than five figures, and there are more entry-level collector vehicles than you could ever know what to do with.
Using the latest update to the Hagerty Vehicle Rating, a 0–100 measurement of a vehicle’s performance relative to the market, we’re able to identify vehicles that are cheap now but are heating up. This time around, it’s another good mix of ages, genres and body styles that are all rides you might want to get in on sooner rather than later.
Average Hagerty Price Guide #3 (Good) value: $5500
Fox-body Mustangs have been heating up for quite some time, and we even highlighted them as a hot car under 10 grand for this list late last year. Remarkably, their rating is even higher this time around, having jumped from 75 to 83. Fox bodies have shown consistent strength across all metrics, including insurance activity, buyer interest, and results on both the auction and private markets. Rare and special models or showroom fresh delivery-mile cars stretch past our budget (in some cases, way past), and Hagerty Price Guide values have risen a bit. For the most part, though, you can have rear-drive, a 5.0, and that delightfully bland styling for well under five figures.
Average Hagerty Price Guide #3 (Good) value: $9050 (Cosworth only)
If you’re old enough to actually remember the Vega, you’d probably never think that these rolling punchlines could be collectible. For the most part you’d be right, but they do seem to be gaining interest as quote activity is way up for Vegas across the board, and not just for the sporty black-and-gold Cosworth models, either.
Average Hagerty Price Guide #3 (Good) value: $5850
The first-generation (Z31) 300ZX is likely few people’s favorite Z-car. It’s something of a middle child between the classic Datsuns of the ’70s and the faster, better-looking Z32s of the 1990s. That said, there are few ways to get into a good-looking, reliable, and reasonably quick vintage sports car for less money than this, and even the 200-horsepower turbocharged models fit into our sub-10 grand budget. They can’t really get any cheaper than they are now, so there is plenty of upside, and buyer interest (as measured by insurance quote activity) is way up over the past few months.
Average Hagerty Price Guide #3 (Good) value: $8200
The sportlich (sporty), leicht (light), and kurz (compact) Mercedes-Benz SLK mostly loses out to the more driver-focused Porsche Boxster and BMW Z3 that it competed with, but it offers good looks, open-top motoring (plus a hard roof for when it’s raining), respectable performance, and lots of modern luxury amenities at a pretty cheap price, especially when you consider that it was a $40,000 car not all that long ago. It also seems to be getting some love lately, with a large bump in buyer interest over the last several months, as well as a similarly big increase in the number added to insurance policies. Parts will always be expensive, but for the car itself definitely isn’t.
Average Hagerty Price Guide #3 (Good) value: $4800
The original Mazda RX-7 was a bright spot in a dark time for sports cars. A peppy, driver-focused little two seater was a rare sight on America’s showroom floors in those days of velour upholstery and massive bumpers, and buyers took notice much like they had with the Datsun 240Z a decade before. The RX-7 was also the model with which Mazda finally got the rotary engine (mostly) right and the famous 13B was available in the later models. Whether it’s because buyers are apprehensive about a rotary under the hood, the fact that Mazda built nearly half a million of them, or that they live in the long shadow of the NA Miata, first-gen RX-7s have been slow to catch on in the market. They saw a bump in value for the last update of the Hagerty Price Guide, but a good, unmolested, and well-optioned example can still be had for well under 10 grand.
Average Hagerty Price Guide #3 (Good) value: $8600
With Acura NSXs and Mk IV Toyota Supras selling for new Corvette money, the Mitsubishi 3000 GT sure does seem like a bargain. It was a technical marvel when it came out, not to mention quite the looker. The top-spec VR4 with turbos and all-wheel drive does get past our 10 grand threshold and good low-mileage examples have gotten more expensive over the past year, but prices for base models have tracked straight and even really good ones can be had for less than 10 grand. Interest in the most collectible models seems to be pulling the cheaper ones up, as buyer interest has seen big growth over the past few months.
Average Hagerty Price Guide #3 (Good) value: $9600
Internationals are likely always going to lag behind classic trucks from the Big Three, especially Ford and Chevy, in terms of collectability. International just doesn’t have the same kind of brand recognition, and parts are more difficult to find, making restoration and maintenance more of a headache. But for the automotive eccentric or anyone who just wants something a little different, a vintage IHC pickup is a tempting choice. There seem to be plenty of such people out there, since both buyer interest and the number added to insurance policies are up, but the average price to get into one is still well in entry-level territory.
Average Hagerty Price Guide #3 (Good) value: $9400
If you say “Ford Thunderbird,” most people think of the original 1955–57 Baby Birds. Even though Ford built the T-Bird for 42 years and it took many different forms over that time, people just seem to prefer the original (as they often do). It has been true from a market perspective, as well, with later T-Birds generally not seeing much movement and being somewhat undervalued considering their equipment and performance. The fifth-generation “Big Birds,” however, seem to be experiencing something of a surge with a spike in buyer interest and more examples being added to insurance policies.
That said, they remain temptingly affordable. For the fifth generation, Ford grew the car considerably to move it upmarket from the Mustang that had previously been eating into T-Bird sales. It has a big-block 429-cubic-inch engine as well as sharp styling, plus the sedan models have rear suicide doors like the Lincoln Continental. It’s a ton of car (over two tons, actually) for the money.